Ben Affleck is already an Oscar winner.
That’s right – no matter how his “Argo” fares at the 85th Academy Awards on Feb. 24, the canny filmmaking star has made the utmost of this awards season, helping to hoist his historical thriller to ever-greater prominence as it picks up honor after honor (Producers Guild, Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild, Critics’ Choice Awards and Golden Globes) by bringing his self-effacing charisma and charm to every occasion.
His star power was certainly on display at this week’s Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. While some nominees eschewed the press room, Affleck took full advantage. He entered to enthusiastic applause, then proceeded to turn question after question into a chance to promote his movie – and was so smooth and fun about it, nobody seemed to mind. Commenting on the many interviews he’s done, he talked about how there’s “a whole spectrum of interesting stuff” in the “Argo” script — about a joint CIA-Canadian secret service operation to get a group of diplomats out of Iran by faking a movie production. “I’ve worked on movies where I ran out of things to say at the junket in 15 seconds, so it’s incredibly satisfying to have something I enjoy continuing to talk about.”
Asked whether he thought there should be an expansion of the number of nominees in the Best Director category, to coincide with the Best Picture noms, he said, “I’ll leave those sorts of calculations to the folks in the press and the pundits and the Oscarologists or whatever it is. I just feel incredibly honored to be here as producer of this movie, to be at the big party. It’s tremendous. Seven nominations, including Best Picture — I’m elated, truly genuinely thrilled. So I don’t get into worrying too much about who was nominated for what,” added Affleck, referring to his snub in the directing category. “I’ve had many, many, many, many, many – many — years watching from home.”
He talked glowingly of the Oscar-nominated directors, of the wave of talented movie makers in Mexico. When a Univision reporter asked about “Argo’s” Mexican director of photography, Rodrigo Prieto, Affleck proudly told her he’d learned “nuevo palabras” from the cinematographer, including a word meaning “trusted friend” which he said Prieto called him all through the production. The word caused snickering throughout the pressroom. Suffice it to say, it does not mean trusted friend.
Always a festive occasion where all the nominees still feel like winners, this year’s luncheon was attended by more than 160 Oscar contenders – including youngest-ever nominee Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), adorable in a sparkly-top purple dress and poised beyond her nine years.
Also in purple hues was beautiful Jessica Chastain, who admitted, “It’s said that most little girls dream about their wedding dresses, but I always dreamed about my Oscar dress.”
The actress, whose portrayal of a driven CIA agent in “Zero Dark Thirty” landed her a Best Actress nomination, commented on women working in traditionally male-dominated arenas. She offered the advice of “looking at the great examples of women like Kathyrn Bigelow and like Maya, the woman I play in this film. Instead of complaining about the numbers not matching – and of course it’s a really important issue – but I’ve found, if you do really good work, it will rise to the top. And Kathyn Bigelow never talks about the glass ceiling for women in Hollywood, for directors. She shows up on set. She’s an expert at her work. At the end of the day, that’s what she’s known for. You don’t think, ‘She’s a brilliant filmmaker – and she’s a woman, can you believe it?’ I just think, ‘She’s a brilliant filmmaker.’”
Jennifer Lawrence, stunning in a white strapless dress, talked fashion, too. “Last time was comfort, this time it’s like, ‘Suck it up. Wear a corset’ I’m going to go for fashion. It’s a shame the Oscars come at the end, when you’re exhausted from dressing up, and I never care.”
Anne Hathaway, looking tres chic with her pixie haircut and teeny tiny-waisted black dress, was asked whether she’d picked out a gown for the Academy Awards. “I have to get on that don’t I?” she replied. “It was the Super Bowl. I couldn’t think about dresses with all that delicious fried food around.”
Naomi Watts also looked gorgeous in black
Speaking of great-looking, Best Actor nominee Bradley Cooper was asked whether “Silver Linings Playbook” was a game-changer for him. “Well, I know that I wasn’t up here for ‘Hangover,’” he answered, to laughter. “So maybe.”
Far from feeling worn out by the awards season whirl, Cooper said “I’m enjoying every minute of this — but it’s easy for me because I like people. If I didn’t like people, if I had a hard time being around people, it would be difficult.” He said that response to the touching film, in which he plays a man struggling with bipolar illness, has “gone so much farther than awards season,” with memorable events such as showing “Silver Linings Playbook” to troops in Washington, D.C. “I’m very grateful.”
As far as his plans for the 24th, he said, “I’m sure the day of I’ll be calming my mother down. She still doesn’t know what to wear. So I think I’ll be a caretaker.”